U.S. forces launched an airstrike Thursday night in Raqqa, Syria, targeting Mohamed Emwazi, the ISIS terrorist known as “Jihadi John” seen in propaganda videos executing American hostages, the Defense Department said.
The masked Emwazi, a Kuwait-born British citizen, has participated in numerous videos showing the killings of Westerners, including American journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley, American aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning and Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, officials said.
A senior U.S. official said that Emwazi was directly “targeted.”
“There is no vengeance, but there is accountability,” said the official, who stressed that “we are still assessing and not confirming” whether Emwazi had been killed.
Sotloff’s mother, Shirley Sotloff, said she hadn’t been informed about the airstrike.
“If they got him great,” she said. But “it doesn’t bring my son back.”
“Who knows if he’s gone,” she said. “I don’t think there will ever be closure.”
Emwazi, who is in his mid-20s, was identified as the mysterious knife-wielding man in the gruesome execution videos in February. He was dubbed Jihadi John by the British press because he was one of four British terrorists whom their prisoners named “the Beatles.”
He is also thought to have used the nom de guerre “Abu Saleh.”
Emwazi — a computer science graduate who lived in west London before he left for Syria in 2013 — had been known to security services and was detained several times as long ago as 2009. He was interrogated but was never arrested or charged.
Britain’s intelligence agency, MI5, believes he was a member of a network of supporters of terrorism and had been in contact with one of the men convicted of attempting to bomb London’s transit system on July 21 2005, two weeks after suicide attacks killed 52 commuters.